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If You Believe the Bible, You Must
Also Believe in ... a Leviathan
By: David Deschesne
Fort Fairfield Journal, March 21, 2012In part 3 of this discussion of an atheist’s rant on the online blog “The Thinking Atheist”, the unnamed atheist author states, if you believe the Bible;
“You believe in the gigantic sea monster known as a Leviathan. (Job 3:8, Job 41:1, Psalm 74:14, Psalm 104:24-26, Isaiah 27:1)”
This atheist seems to imply that Leviathans aren’t real and the Bible is simply a fictitious story that shouldn’t be believed. He cites Job 3:8 as a verse containing “Leviathan.” Leviathan does appear in the Hebrew version, but it is translated by King James as “mourning.” For the others, he draws his English verses from the Old Testament in the King James Bible. However, English was not the language the Old Testament was written in. In order to understand the word definitions and contextual usage of words that appear in the Old Testament we must look to the Hebrew.
The word Leviathan appears just five times in the Bible.1 It is transliterated into English from the Hebrew word, לויתן, livyâthân. which means a wreathed animal such as a serpent, especially a crocodile or some other large sea monster; it can also be used as the verb, mourn, or mourning.2
The Septuagint Bible, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament books in the time of Christ translates the Hebrew Leviathan simply as “dragon” in all of the verses which it appears.3 Remember from the study on “dragon” from the February 8, 2012 edition of FFJ, dragon simply means a sea monster, such as a crocodile or other large sea serpent.
Leviathan is also used as a metaphor for the forces of chaos which are represented as a sea monster.4
“Leviathan is a name applied to various types of sea monsters in biblical and rabbinic literature. From some references it would appear that it meant a whale, or a crocodile...Associated with the Leviathan is the mighty Behemoth, and in the Apocrypha these two creatures are said to have existed since the fifth day of Creation.”5
Leviathan in Latin means the twisted animal, gathering itself in folds. The last syllable, than, appertains to the noun, as in Nehushtan; the first part, levi, in Arabic, means twisting: a synonym to the Thannin, it was a type of Egyptian tyrant, “Leviathan, that crooked serpent;” is a poetical generalization for all cetacean, serpentine, and saurian monsters; all the description applies to no one animal. For example, in Job 41:1, it refers to the person being unable to put the Leviathan’s tongue down; (in reference to the Leviathan, which may be descriptive of a crocodile) the crocodile has no tongue, or a very small one cleaving to the lower jaw.6
“In Job 41:1 and Ps 74:14 the crocodile is without doubt the animal intended. The context of Ps 104:26 seems to show that in this passage the name represents some animal of the whale tribe, which is common in the Mediterranean; but it is somewhat uncertain what animal is denoted in Isa 27:1 and Job 3:8. On the whole modern commentators are inclined to believe them poetical references based upon the mythological ‘dragon.’”7
“As behemouth is the hippopotamus, leviathan is the crocodile, both found in Egypt along the Nile. The term elsewhere is used for any large monster of the sea or water.”8
I could go on here and bore you with more dictionary and commentary definitions describing leviathan as a crocodile, whale or any other large sea monster, but I won’t.
The atheist here is asserting that leviathans do not exist, except as mythological creatures and is attempting to cast dispersions on the text of the Holy Bible because that word is contained within it.
When read in its proper context, with the accepted definition of the word at the time it was originally written in Hebrew, Leviathan simply means crocodile or whale; in some poetic uses it means mourning or tyrant. In that respect, to believe there are leviathans (crocodiles and whales) in the Bible and in the world today is perfectly rational, reasonable and logical; despite the atheists’ best efforts to ridicule the use of that word.
1. Job 41:1, Ps 74:14, Ps 104:26, Isa 27:1
2. Strong’s #3882
3. The Septuagint Bible ©1954 Falcon’s Wing Press
4. The Jewish Study Bible, ©1999 Jewish Publication Society, p. 1364, note on Ps 74:14.
5. The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, ©2002 Jersusalem Publishing House, pp. 473-474
6. See notes at A Commentary; Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old
and New Testaments, ©1945
Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Co., Vol. III, p. 100
7. Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, ©1925 John C. Winston Co., p. 362
8. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary, ©1961 Zondervan Publishing House, p. 430